Microsoft will start rolling out the fourth major update to its Windows 10 operating system today, the Fall Creators Update.
GeekWire got a chance to check out some of the major pieces of the update at Microsoft HQ in Redmond last week. Microsoft officials divide the update up into four primary categories: 3D, mixed reality, gaming and photos/video. Here is a look at the big new features, some of which date back to last year.
3D: Microsoft has made 3D a big point of emphasis in the last year. Microsoft unveiled a 3D version of its classic Paint program, and with the Fall Creators update it is adding new capabilities to productivity tools within Microsoft Office. For example, in PowerPoint, users can now insert 3D objects that are linked to multiple slides and can be rotated to create from slide to slide, to create a seamless presentation.
“We think there’s probably no greater sort of boost to human productivity in the next few years than the advent of 3D,” said Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president for Microsoft’s Windows and Devices Group. “And the reason for that is because when you can see and create three dimensions you can conceptualize things in a more robust way.”
Mixed and virtual reality: Microsoft has been experimenting for years with the concept through its HoloLens headset and other tools. With the Creators Update, Microsoft is introducing a Mixed Reality Viewer that lets users impose virtual images on the real world through device cameras.
Along with the Fall Creators Update, Microsoft partners HP, Dell, Lenovo and Acer will release a slate of virtual reality headsets starting at $399 and running the Windows Mixed Reality platform. Another headset, this one from Samsung, was announced last week, and will be released later.
These devices complement Microsoft’s high end experimentation in mixed reality with the HoloLens. While virtual reality naturally seems like a platform for gaming, Microsoft sees it as a productivity tool as well as an entertainment platform.
“Our view on mixed reality is we think that this is really the next frontier in computing, for how people will communicate create and work and play,” Mehdi said. “And a big part of that is because mixed reality lets you transcend the border between space and time in the digital and the real world.”
Video: Windows has lacked a proper first-party video editor since the departure of Windows Movie Maker, but Mehdi said that is changing with the Fall Creators Update. The new video editor automatically stitches together photos and videos in a way that makes sense and easily allows people to create stories and drop in 3D objects.
Games: Microsoft is also souping up its new game streaming platform Mixer. With the Fall Creators update, Microsoft added a “game mode” that dedicates all the power of the PC to the gaming experience, improving performance and speed.
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Taken together, these ideas all fit a vision of taking down boundaries, such as distance between co-workers or friends or constraints of 2D designs.
“These ideas that we’re kind of Sci-Fi 20 years ago are now really in front of us today,” Mehdi said. “So I think that’s pretty profound.”
Microsoft has pushed back one of the more ambitious features originally announced for the Fall Creators Update, dubbed Timeline, which is designed to bridge Windows 10 to Android and iOS by letting users pick up where they left off in files, apps and sites on any of those devices. The company acknowledged in July that the feature wouldn’t be available in time for this release.